A new Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general report finds that the agency initially required, and then “encouraged,” recipients of HUD stimulus funds to post signs indentifying projects as being funded by the Recovery Act. In other words, HUD pushed recipients to engage in political advertising, and to do it with taxpayer funds.
As the report explains, HUD’s encouragement was not very subtle:
While the language used in the published guidance states that it is not a HUD requirement to post signs, the tone and other information (such as examples of sign templates) were clear indicators that posting signs was preferred. Further, an earlier e-mail from the Deputy Press Secretary stated that the posting of signs was highly recommended. That August 4, 2009, e-mail to HUD’s Recovery Act team also provided examples of graphics, cost estimates for various banner sizes and the Secretary’s preference to ‘highly recommend (not require)’ grantees to post signs.
HUD held a series of ‘standing up for communities’ rallies, financed by taxpayers, which encouraged local officials and special interest groups to lobby against Republican budget cuts. One piece of propaganda distributed by HUD's New York office warned that the budget cuts ‘would dramatically expand America's underclass’ and that ‘thousands of families, many with children, would end up homeless.’ HUD also sponsored a National Tenants Organization convention in Puerto Rico to defend the department. But that event was so political that even a HUD translator refused to take part and walked out of the proceedings in protest. According to HUD's inspector general, an NTO official responded that ‘he really didn't care whether HUD translated or not because the point was to get rid of Newt Gingrich.’